Sympathy

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A classic George Ostrom column, from May, 1989...

There is not much tolerance in our hearts for the violent criminal, but there are evil doers who somehow elicit that crumb of sympathy. Shortly after a San Diego bank robbery last week, Eric Martin became the subject of a high-speed auto chase by the law. He began throwing handfuls of money out the window along the Costa Mesa Freeway. After the cash (evidence) was all gone, Eric ditched the car and ran into a store to escape.

Imagine Eric’s woebegone feelings as he crawled up into the attic of that store, thinking about the thousands of dollars he had just scattered to the California winds. But…with police swarming all over the place, he probably did feel lucky in finding a swell place to hide. Maybe Eric was a little overweight. Perhaps it wasn’t his day. Whatever! He had barely curled up in the dark to sweat it out when the ceiling fell in, at least the part he was lying on.

The thud when he hit the floor below did two things: (1) Knocked Eric half dingdong and (2) Alerted every cop in the area. I hope the jailer gave him one of the softer pillows.

The Daily Missoulian again practiced “headline innuendo” last week. This is a common thing on the CBS news and other big media outlets. The “headline innuendo” is in my opinion an unfair form of insinuation, and it insults the public. The headline read, “Koch denies UM programs are off limits.” The story states in the first paragraph that U of M President Koch said “rumors” that certain programs were off limits are just that, rumors.

For a person to “deny” something, I believe they should first be “accused” of something and the accusers should have visible and printable evidence. The “Koch denies” headline implies that Koch had either done something wrong or was hiding something the public has a right to know. That is what 99 percent of the readers who looked at the headline thought, because of the common negative connotation of the word “deny.” The facts are there were “rumors” started by someone…maybe the Missoulian for all we know, that some U of M programs were sacred cows in the budget cutting process. Regardless of whether those rumors were fact or fiction, President Koch deserved better treatment by the headline writer. Besides, it is neither illegal or dishonest to exclude some programs from budget cutting.

NOW! If I should call a couple of Missoulian editors and ask if their paper used misleading headlines and they say no, I could legitimately write a story saying, “Missoulian editors deny using misleading headlines.” See the difference?

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